I don’t have anything to back this up, but I can’t think of very many games in NFL history that have only been tied for 17 seconds. But the Las Vegas Raiders managed to “accomplish” that feat against the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday after fumbling the game away on the first play from scrimmage.
Despite mathematically only being one game out of the playoffs, the Raiders’ postseason hopes are officially gone, and now the focus surrounding the organization for the rest of this season will shift to who is going to be around for next season.
Nonetheless, we still offer our winners and losers from yesterday to go over, however, the theme will start to change in the coming weeks to try and shine a light on the players who are on the bubble of sticking around for the long haul.
LOSERS: Everyone in the building
We’ll start nice and specific and really pinpoint the problem, everyone in the building.
In all seriousness, everyone involved with the organization has to be embarrassed and share some of the blame for yesterday’s miserable performance. The offense gave up nearly as many points as they scored, the defense allowed another 40-burger and all of this was after the players decided to step on the Chiefs’ logo in the pregame. The latter is a clear sign that the team has a serious lack of leadership issue that starts at the top.
Charles Woodson even said in the pregame that if Raiders lose this game, everyone is on notice, and not only did they lose it, they didn’t even look like they belonged on the same field as the Chiefs.
“Everybody’s on notice. The GM’s on notice. The head coach is on notice. Derek Carr is on notice.” pic.twitter.com/6xsHFN2gp3— Raider Nation Boston (@RaiderNationBOS) December 12, 2021
Woodson couldn’t be more right. This is now the third year in a row that the Silver and Black have essentially played two different seasons in one, starting off looking like a contender only to prove to be a pretender during crunch time. That has to change and this finally needs to be the offseason where heads start to roll.
Rich Bisaccia, Gus Bradley, Mike Mayock, Derek Carr and everyone else should be on the chopping block and should have to prove why they belong to stick around for the last month of the season.
WINNER: Clelin Ferrell
Speaking of people who might not be around next year, Clelin Ferrell made a strong case to play out his rookie contract in Las Vegas. Now, Ferrell’s goose might have already been cooked, but he was one of the few bright spots from yesterday.
The 2019 first-round pick only played 17 defensive snaps but earned an elite 90.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. There’s not much he can do about the limited reps, but what he did do is make the reps count.
Ferrell rushed the passer nine times and came away with a sack and sniffed out a screen which forced Patrick Mahomes to throw the ball away. On the other eight snaps against the run, he was able to record a stop and earn a respectable 68.1 run defense grade.
Again, the former Clemson Tiger may already be looking at playing elsewhere next year, but if he can string a few more performances like yesterday’s and maintain this pace with more snaps, he’ll increase his offseason trade value at the very least.
LOSER: Alex Leatherwood
I know I’ve said this several times before, but now it’s more true than ever before; it’s been a very rough rookie season for Alex Leatherwood.
His struggles have been well documented and highlighted by a mid-season shift to guard. That position change had helped improve his production as he hadn’t allowed a sack on the inside, until Sunday, when he allowed two for the first time since Week 1.
But it wasn’t even just the sacks that made Leatherwood’s performance so cringe-worthy. He allowed a career/season-high nine pressures and earned an 88.8 pass-blocking efficiency rating, both of which currently rank dead last among all offensive linemen. That culminated in a 0.0 PFF grade in pass protection which, as I’m sure you could imagine, also is the worst of the week.
In fairness to the rookie, he did earn his third-highest run-blocking grade (69.7) on the campaign, but it’s hard to put much weight into that seeing as he only had 12 opportunities.
Leatherwood is probably one of the few people in the building that are guaranteed to stick around for next season, but he can’t continue to be a liability in the passing game if he wants to stick around beyond that and/or keep a starting job.
WINNER: Malcolm Koonce
Malcolm Koonce is a big winner partially because I’m lumping his performance from last week in with yesterday’s.
The Buffalo product made his NFL debut last week and got a sack on just three pass rushes, and he followed that up with another sack and pressure on nine opportunities against the Chiefs. In other words, he’s affected the quarterback on 25 percent of his pass rushes.
While the sample size is too small to put much weight into this, Koonce has the highest pass-rush productivity (27.8) among edge defenders over the last two weeks, per PFF. His low snap count definitely inflates that number and takes away his standing as the most productive pass rusher over the last couple of weeks, but it is something to build off of moving forward.
Much like Ferrell, there isn’t much Koonce can do about his low workload except for continuing to make every rep count. Hopefully, he’ll get more playing time in the coming weeks and continue to develop.
LOSER: Trayvon Mullen
I’ll preface this section by saying this, I completely understand and respect the difficulty of playing Mahomes and the Chiefs in your first game back from injury. However, if Trayvon Mullen is going to be the No. 1 corner of the future and a building block for the Raiders’ defense, he can’t have performances like Sunday’s, no excuses.
Mullen was targeted four times and allowed all for to be completed for 69 yards, a touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He was also called for two penalties and earned the fourth-lowest coverage grade (35.5) among cornerbacks so far this week. The most frustrating part is it wasn’t even the Chiefs’ top targets that were eating him alive.
Tyreek Hill did have one catch for nine yards against the third-year pro, but Mecole Hardman - who has struggled and was even benched at one point this year - had two grabs for 59 yards against him, and Josh Gordon added the touchdown.
Again, if Mullen is going to be the lockdown corner the Raiders want or need him to be, he can’t be getting beat by opponents’ third- and fourth-best weapons in the passing game. This isn’t to say that he can’t turn it around and finish the year strong, especially now that he’s healthy and there will be more opportunities, but the former second-round pick is running low on time to firmly secure his spot for the future.
WINNER: Andre James
It will likely get lost in the shuffle since yesterday’s game was so bad for the Silver and Black as a whole, but Andre James put together an impressive performance.
He earned the highest PFF pass-blocking grade of his career with an 85.1 mark that is the highest among centers for the week, pre Monday Night Football. For the second week in a row, he pitched a shutout by allowing zero pressures, and he hasn’t allowed more than one in a single game since Week 5. That’s a dramatic turn of events from the beginning of the season where he was struggling to win in pass protection.
James was even solid in the ground game yesterday, an area that he’s consistently struggled in this season. He received a 67.5 run-blocking grade from PFF and brought his season mark up to an average 60.1.
That may not seem like much but it’s a dramatic improvement for a guy who was about to get run out of town at the beginning of the year. Now, it’s just a matter of James being able to continue this momentum through the final month of the season and finish strong as a potential building block for the future.